Court House is one of those projects that get its brief and context right, seemingly without doing anything new or special. Set within a quiet court with a walking track down to a secluded beach, the brief was for a modest timber dwelling with a protected outdoor area away from the strong Southerly breezes. As expected, timber plays a key role in the design to connect the home to its coastal bush landscape.
But these are just first impressions made from afar. The delight of Court House is found up close and possibly behind closed doors – its namesake, a courtyard set between living areas that clue us in on the project’s true personality.
“The original brief called for a modest timber dwelling with a protected outdoor area away from the strong Southerly breezes and a bridge to enhance the sense of entry,” Project architect at Peter Winkler Architects, Jeremy Anderson, explains.
“This idea of entry became a prompt for our conceptual framework and through a series of hand drawn sketches the strongest recurring theme was the idea of a central courtyard as an orienting device as well as an arrival point.”
In place of the original bridge idea, the courtyard was enclosed with core-ten gates that may be opened or closed, depending on the environmental conditions. When open, the gates amplify the presence of the immediate landscape and the preserved native Moona trees. Practically, this allows the cool sea breeze to enter the home, flowing through the courtyard and flushing the hot air out of the home’s two wings.
Closed, these same gates allow the home to be locked down during the winter months (and for the use of wood fire), or when the owners are away. In a sense, the gates take on multiple purposes – both to facilitate connections with the landscape and as a sustainability feature.
The courtyard’s polycarbonate roof lets in luminous diffused light, and is overshadowed by a second-storey level, which provides effective protection from the harsh sun in summer.
Meanwhile, a series of fixed core-ten louvres on the north and west elevation block the summer sun but allow for the low angle of winter sun to enter. The conjunction of appropriate solar passive design and thermal mass of the concrete slab provide warmth in the autumn, winter and cooler spring days.
Left: Northern Elevation
Right: West Elevation
The home’s indoor living areas are separated into two wings. One is the more ‘public’ facing, with living spaces or social gathering areas, while other contains bedrooms, bathrooms and study spaces.
Both wings open out onto the central courtyard, which must be passed when moving from one wing to the other. Not only does this design amplify the presence of the immediate landscape, it also creates a more relaxed relationship between the home and its occupants, and the outdoors.
The living wing roof lifts to the east, allowing the morning sun to penetrate deep into the floor plate to allow solar gain.
The private wing is screened with horizontal louvres to the north and south, with vertical fins to the west allowing for privacy and sun protection.
Hoop pine plywood with expressed hardwood battens, concrete floors and cement sheet ceilings create an honest palette that resonates with Court House’s surrounds. And this is the simple magic of the project – it is no-fuss, draws no attention to itself, but works perfectly to accommodate the client’s needs, endure the test of time, and provide flexibility for many future generations.
Recycled Australian timber sourced by owner
INTERNAL HOOP PINE
Hoop pine plywood
Cement sheet ceilings